Can’t Do Right for Doing Wrong: Exhibition Review

Phil Collins: Can’t Do Right for Doing Wrong at HOME mcr.

Words by Rose Sergent.

This summer, HOME is home to ‘Can’t Do Right for Doing Wrong’, an immersive art experience by Turner Prize Winner, Phil Collins (the Artist, not the drummer from Genesis – although this has led to a bunch of the singer’s fans following us on Instagram). It brings together several pieces of Collins’ work from over the last five years including:

‘my heart’s in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand’s in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught’, ‘Delete Beach’ and ‘Ceremony’. Each are immersive and uniquely presented.

‘my heart’s in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand’s in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught’

The exhibition is dimly lit on entry and the first installation is a series of booths with vinyl players and vinyl within each one. The booths are well-lit in contrast to the surroundings and entering one and putting on headphones does feel quite exposing. ‘my heart’s in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand’s in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught’ is the outcome from one of Collins’ projects in 2013. Working with guests of Gulliver’s Survival Station for the Homeless, thousands of free anonymised recorded phone calls were listened to and some were chosen as samples to be mixed by professional musicians. Each of the booths contain a different selection of these tracks on 7″ vinyl. The vinyl covers are interesting too, presenting partial portraits and fit well with the idea of these partial insights into people’s lives through their phone conversations. You can’t help but feel like you’re prying on these people, even though they’re nameless.

Delete Beach

Delete Beach is set in a dark and disorientating room. The floor is covered in dirt and oil barrels are used as seats in front of a large screen. There are also pools of black bubbling water which, for a long time is the only thing happening in the room in time to music. You’re encouraged to take a seat on an oil barrel in the centre of the room and an anime style film plays. The film is dysphoric, set in a world where burning fossil fuels is illegal. It focuses on a girl who is torn between being a ‘burner’ or a ‘lemming’. In order to stay safe, she joins the radical group, abandoning her dog and home. It’s a peak, disaster level outcome and unsettling to watch.


Ceremony is focused on the work, life and legacy of Friedrich Engels who is often referred to as the forgotten co-founder of communist theory. Engels moved to Manchester during the mid-19th Century and witnessed first-hand the terrible working conditions of the working class. This was said to have a significant influence on his beliefs and attitudes towards industrial capitalism.

Despite Manchester having such a powerful influence on Engels’ work, there was nothing to signify his time in the city. Having recognised this, Collins’ and Manchester International Festival, made it their mission to change this. Ceremony documents the journey that a large cement statue of Engels took from Soviet Russia to Manchester in an interesting way. Out of all the exhibits, it’s the simplest with all the action happening on the screen. The film documents the entirety of Engels’ homecoming to Manchester, giving historical information, social context and shows the epic arrival of the statue. It’s quite emotional, there are so many links made between the working conditions of Engels’ time and ours. The statue of Engels’ is a reminder of the need for radical change, action and thought and, he’s still there outside of HOME mcr to see. Ceremony is presented as part of the NOW 14-18 season in collaboration with Manchester International Festival and HOME.

If you choose to see this exhibition, you won’t be disappointed. It has a lot to offer and isn’t one to whizz round quickly. The decision to run each of the installations into one another is interesting and in a way, exhausting. Collins’ is exploring so much that’s particularly poignant to Manchester as homelessness is at an all time high and wages are low. It’s immersive, consuming, disorientating and it will keep you thinking for ages after.

Phil Collins Can’t Do Right for Doing Wrong is on at HOME mcr till 16th September.


Our guest blogger Rose Sergent is a writer, zine maker, blogger for Every Month and founding editor of Drawn Poorly Zine @drawnpoorlyzine. Follow Rose on Instagram @_rosencrantzzz 

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